Basic and Applied Memory Research: Practical Applications - Vol. 2

By Douglas J. Herrmann; Cathy McEvoy et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX Remembering to Do Things: Remembering a Forgotten Topic

Gilles O. Einstein
Furman University

Mark A. McDaniel
University of New Mexico

It has been more than 10 years since Harris ( 1984) wrote his influential review paper on prospective memory titled "Remembering to Do Things: A Forgotten Topic." In the introduction to his paper, Harris pointed out that prospective memory has received virtually no attention by memory researchers, and thus he used the word forgotten in the sense that it was an "ignored" topic. Indeed, the earliest experimental study that Harris could find was conducted in 1940, and few of the cited papers were published in main memory journals. It some ways, however, prospective memory was also a "forgotten" topic as pioneers of the field of psychology such as James, Freud, and Lewin spoke in interesting ways of remembering intentions. For example, Freud characterized prospective memories as ones that reside at an unconscious level until they suddenly "pop" into awareness. Lewin was interested in, among other things, the tension produced by these "unfinished" memories and how these unfinished or intended actions come to mind (for further information see Goschke & Kuhl, 1996; Mantyla, 1996).

An examination of Harris' classic chapter reveals that in 1984 there were only hints of laboratory paradigms for studying prospective memory, few theoretical views, and little connection between the prospective and retrospective memory literatures. As might be expected in the early stages of research on a topic, the chapter mainly consisted of descriptions of different kinds of prospective memory situations and conceptual classifications of different kinds of prospective memory tasks (with the exception of a compelling theory by Harris & Wilkins, 1982). In fact, Harris concluded the

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